In January 2017, OSHA issued new comprehensive health standards addressing exposure to beryllium in all industries. In response to feedback from stakeholders, the agency is considering technical updates to the January 2017 general industry standard, which will clarify and simplify compliance with requirements. OSHA will also begin enforcing on May 11, 2018, the new lower 8-hour permissible exposure limit (PEL) and short-term (15-minute) exposure limit (STEL) for construction and shipyard industries. In the interim, if an employer fails to meet the new PEL or STEL, OSHA will inform the employer of the exposure levels and offer assistance to assure understanding and compliance.
Beryllium HazardsWorkers who become sensitive to beryllium are at risk for developing a debilitating disease of the lungs called chronic beryllium disease (CBD) if they inhale airborne beryllium after becoming sensitized. Beryllium-exposed workers may also develop other adverse health effects such as acute beryllium disease, and lung cancer.
OSHA estimates that approximately 62,000 workers are potentially exposed to beryllium in approximately 7,300 establishments in the United States. While the highest exposures occur in the workplace, family members of workers who work with beryllium also have potential exposure from contaminated work clothing and vehicles. Based on OSHA Integrated Management Information System and industry exposure data, beryllium workers in primary beryllium manufacturing and alloy production, and recycling have the highest average exposures to beryllium.
At-Risk OccupationsOccupations with potential exposure to beryllium include:
- Primary Beryllium Production Workers
- Workers Processing Beryllium Metal/Alloys/Composites
- Foundry WorkersFurnace Tenders
- Machine Operators
- Metal Fabricators
- Dental Technicians
- Secondary smelting and refining (recycling electronic and computer parts, metals)
- Abrasive Blasters (slags)